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Wed 15th Mar 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant like-for-like sales grow 1.7% in February, school half-term boosts casual dining: Pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales grow 1.7% in February compared with last year, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. Overall, restaurant groups in the Tracker cohort had the best of February’s trading, with like-for-like sales up 2.4% nationally on the same month in 2016, boosted by family business during the school half-term holidays. Managed pubs were also ahead over the month but with collective like-for-likes up a more modest 1.2%. Regionally, London outperformed the rest of the country with like-for-like sales ahead 2.6% against 1.4% for outside the M25. The February results follow a 1.9% like-for-like increase in January and 2.2% growth over the busy Christmas and New Year period, and contrast favourably with faltering retail sales in the high street. “With mounting pressures on the sector from business rate hikes, the falling pound leading to higher food costs and the general uncertainty around Brexit, the fact consumers are still coming through their doors to eat and drink will be a welcome relief for operators,” said Peter Martin, vice-president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “Encouraging though these figures are, pub and restaurant groups will be working even harder this year to maintain trading levels as their margins are squeezed by increasing overheads. As our recent CGA Business Leaders Survey of 450 senior executives across pub, bar and restaurant chains showed, almost three quarters are looking to pass increased costs, at least in part, on to the consumer this year. That means they will have to redouble efforts to up the customer experience.” Total sales growth in February among the 34 companies in the Tracker cohort was up 4.7%, reflecting the impact of new openings over the year. However, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-likes running at just 1.0% ahead for the 12 months to the end of February. Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “London restaurants and bars are seeing strong sales growth, which they certainly need. With overheads increasing ahead of inflation the top-line growth is very important to food and drink operators. This year has started strongly for operators in the sector. However, the business rates revaluation has really focused operators on their occupancy costs and, despite the very minor concessions in the budget, this is yet another additional negative impact on margins and affecting future growth.” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: “Eight of the past nine months have shown like-for-like sales growth, providing operators with good cause for optimism. Despite a backdrop of uncertainty and cost pressures facing the sector, investor interest remains strong. We are seeing opportunities for both early stage and more mature leisure concepts that combine flair and innovation with a commercial focus on converting sales into profit.”

Industry News:

Finance and Investment Conference opens for bookings: The Propel Finance and Investment Conference is now open for bookings. Speakers will include Darren Tristano, president of insights firm Technomic, who will look at the key criteria US investment firms are applying in the US foodservice market and make his pick of the most interesting emerging US brands. Andrew Ball, partner at sector accountants haysmacintyre, will set out the most tax-efficient ways to offer investment in a company – and how to involve employees in a business by creating an employee shareholder scheme. Meanwhile, Andy Laurillard, founder of Thai restaurant brand Giggling Squid, which attracted investment from the Business Growth Fund in 2015, will talk about the process of preparing to attract investment, his experience of talking to potential investors and the difference the Business Growth Fund investment has made to Giggling Squid. Click here to see the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Thursday, 11 May at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets are £295 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers, while tickets for Propel Premium subscribers are £245 plus VAT. To book, email anne.steele@propelinfo.com or call 01444 817691.

Advanced Social Media Masterclass opens for bookings: The Propel Advanced Social Media Masterclass is now open for bookings. Held in association with Digital Blonde founder Karen Fewell, other speakers will include Digital Blonde social media manager Nicola Proud, who will revisit effective social media campaigns with a special focus on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, delving into what success looks like across each platform and how to avoid potential pitfalls. Steve Ward works as a talent attraction strategist, helping businesses to become a magnet for the talent they want. He will explain how to recognise, recruit and retain top social media talent to ensure the right person or people take charge of your social channels. Sarah McGhie, who has years of PR experience in the pub, bar and hospitality sector, will talk about the power of PR and how this can amplify your social media success, and vice versa. She will also discuss how to avoid the pitfalls of an “always on” approach with regards to reputation management, and when to pick your fights and when to walk away. Click here to see the full programme. The full-day event takes place on Friday, 7 April at One Moorgate Place, London EC2R 6EA. Tickets for the event are £295 plus VAT for Propel Premium members and £345 plus VAT for non-members and can be booked by emailing anne.steele@propelinfo.com or calling 01444 817691.

Small British brewers benefiting from resurgence in local heritage products: Small British brewers are benefiting as consumers increasingly want their food and drink to demonstrate local heritage and have fewer air miles, according to a new report. Supply chain standards member organisation GS1 UK’s Buying British in 2017 report revealed an upswing in beverage producers as buyers choose craft drinks. The British beer-brewing sector has grown from only 140 breweries in 1970 to an excess of 1,700 – with the UK now having more breweries per capita than any other country. Other craft drinks are also seeing an upswing in demand. The number of gin distilleries has doubled in six years and sales of the spirit recently surpassed £1bn for the first time. This increased demand for craft drinks is reflected in the growth of GS1 UK beverage members. Although drinks manufacturers account for a relatively small percentage of members – less than 1% of GS1 UK’s total membership – the rate at which they join is increasing significantly. In 2016 they made up 3% of new joiners, swelling ranks by 41% from 316 to 447 during a 12-month period. Businesses in the food and groceries sector account for the largest single percentage (20%) of GS1 UK’s membership. The sector is also one of the fastest growing, with 12% of new joiners in 2016 originating from the food and groceries sector as shoppers seek to buy British.

Crowdfunding campaign launched to open UK’s first sheep cafe, in London: A campaign has been launched on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to launch the UK’s first sheep cafe, in London. The organisers have made 6,000 tickets available and require 500 people to make $50 “bookings” to get the project under way. Customers would interact with two real sheep, Jake and Jenny, alongside snacks such as apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, sandwiches, salads, chocolate desserts, coffee and tea. The pitch states: “The idea is to experience nature in the middle of a big city. Having these two cute sheep nearby makes it easy to commune with nature and learn more about the interesting creatures.” So far, the campaign has raised £10 from one backer towards the $25,000 target, with one month remaining.

Company News:

Duck and Rice takes £80,000 a week in first year but loses £1.8m: The Duck and Rice, the classic Chinese food in a pub concept set up by Wagamama founder Alan Yau in London’s Berwick Street, turned over £3,920,883 in the financial year to 25 March 2016 but had an operating loss of £1,420,164. Interest charges brought the total pre-tax loss to £1,885,403. The Duck and Rice opened on 13 April 2015 so the accounts cover its first 50 weeks or so of trading. The company lost £1,155,530 in the previous year when it was not trading. At the time of opening, Yau said: “I don’t do pastiche. What we have is a proper pub with a Chinese kitchen. It’s not a ‘Chinese pub’, because then it becomes an extreme exercise in the way a musician doing a restaurant would create a Hard Rock Cafe.” The company has a loan of £4,836,000 and accrued interest of £647,618. In recent weeks, Propel has reported two other concepts founded by Yau are loss-making despite strong levels of turnover. Latest accounts for Asian fusion noodle bar Cha Cha Moon showed it managed to reduce its losses in 2015, the year before owner Kout Food Group sold the lease on the site back to its landlord. The accounts showed turnover was up 2% to £2,029,000, while its operating loss reduced to £386,000 from £587,000 the year before. Yau also co-founded Milanese bakery Princi in Wardour Street. Its latest accounts showed it made an operating loss of £233,364 for the financial year ending 31 October 2015, compared with an operating profit of £27,586 the year before. Turnover rose to £4,601,304 (2014: £4,481,019), while Ebitda was £79,941 compared with £359,767 the year before. Yau resigned as a director in June 2016.

Camm & Hooper looking to open up to three sites over next couple of years as it reports turnover and site Ebitda increase: Imbiba Partnership-backed event and hospitality group Camm & Hooper has said it is looking to open up to three sites during the next couple of years after reporting an increase in turnover and site Ebitda. The company, which currently operates four sites in London, saw turnover increase to £6,638,045 for the year ending 28 August 2016, compared with £5,326,556 the year before. Site Ebitda grew to £1,608,178 from £1,003,152, which was “in line with the business growth plans”, according to accounts filed with Companies House. Pre-tax profit was up to £289,886, compared with £160,065 the year before. The company stated: “During the period a new site was acquired in Soho, London, called Six Storeys on Soho. The site opened after the year end, in November 2016. The objective of the business is to open two or three sites over the next couple of years.” Camm & Hooper also operates Tanner & Co and Tanner Warehouse in Bermondsey, Banking Hall in Cornhill, and The Victorian Bath House in Bishopsgate Churchyard.

Chilango reports turnover boost: Mexican brand Chilango has reported turnover increased to £6.97m for the year ending 27 March 2016, compared with £6.50m the year before. Gross profit was up to £4.57m compared with £4.22m the previous year, according to accounts filed with Companies House. The company stated: “During the year the company opened a further two restaurants, bringing the total number of restaurants to ten at year-end. The openings during the year were Chilango London Bridge in October 2015 and Chilango Brewer Street in March 2016. In 2016/17 the company has opened an additional three restaurants and closed the restaurant in Camden, bringing the total number of restaurants to 12. During the year there were exceptional costs of £855,000 included within administrative expenses relating to prior-year VAT on takeaway food.” In 2015, Chilango raised more than £3.4m on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube as it looked to expand in the UK and overseas.

Chozen Noodle opens first site inside supermarket: Chozen Noodle, the fast casual noodle bar brand founded by Matthew Kirby and John Dodds, has launched its first site inside a supermarket. The new venue has opened at the Midcounties Co-operative store in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, as part of a move by Co-op to widen its appeal to office workers and shoppers in the area. The franchise operation offers a wide range of freshly prepared sushi and salads along with Chozen’s pan-Asian hot-food dishes, including katsu curry, sweet chilli teriyaki, and red Thai vegetable curry. Chozen chief executive Matthew Kirby told Propel initial trading had been “very encouraging” and had helped to increase both lunchtime footfall and related food spend inside the store. He added: “I think a branded Asian offer has a wide customer appeal and this helps to create a real point of difference for Midcounties. Hopefully, if this project works we will open a number of additional sites.” The Co-op launch is Chozen Noodles’ second opening this year, with a further four sites planned during 2017. Chozen Noodle operates almost 30 sites in the UK, including more than 15 franchises.

Wahaca lodges plans for restaurant in Birmingham: Mexican restaurant brand Wahaca has lodged plans to open a site in Birmingham. The company, founded by 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers and Mark Selby, has applied to the city council to convert the former TSB bank in Temple Street into its latest outlet. Planning consultancy Firstplan, which has drawn up the proposals, said the restaurant would regenerate the vacant site, providing employment and contributing to the “vitality and vibrancy” of the area. It said the planned Birmingham base would create a “modern and appealing restaurant” that fitted in with other commercial units along Temple Street and the wider area, reports Insider Media. Wahaca opened its first site in 2007 and now has 26 venues in the UK.

Premier Inn signs deals for two new London sites: Whitbread has signed deals to open two new Premier Inn sites in London – in Wood Green and Canning Town – that will add 308 bedrooms to its expanding portfolio in the capital. The move is part of Whitbread’s plans to operate 20,000 bedrooms in London across its Premier Inn and Hub by Premier Inn formats by 2020 and an overall UK growth drive towards 85,000 bedrooms in the same time period. Premier Inn has completed a leasehold deal with Lazari Investments for a 148-bedroom hotel in Wood Green, north London, within a mixed-use redevelopment of a former British Home Stores site in High Road. The deal represents investment of £14.1m and is expected to create 43 jobs. At Canning Town in east London, Premier Inn has completed a leasehold deal with Galiford Try for a 160-bedroom hotel within a mixed-use scheme that would see Premier Inn occupy three floors above ground-floor retail and restaurant units. The deal represents investment of £17.8m and is expected to create 45 jobs. Openings are targeted for the third quarter of 2019 for Wood Green and summer 2020 for Canning Town. Louise Woodruff, acquisition manager for Premier Inn in London, said: “We’re expanding across the capital with an emphasis on city centre locations and the important district centres within the outer boroughs. We want to give our guests the best and most comprehensive choice of locations right across London and these new sites will help us do that.”

McDonald’s tests expanded McCafe range in California in effort to bolster beverage business: McDonald’s is testing a trio of new McCafe drinks in California as the company continues its efforts to bolster its beverage business. The new drinks are hot and iced caramel macchiato, French vanilla cappuccino and Americano. They are available in the Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto areas, where there are 170 McDonald’s restaurants. The restaurants are adding new McCafe equipment to kitchens to enhance all of the beverages, including mochas, lattes and hot chocolate. McDonald’s also wants to increase the presence of McCafe inside restaurants in a bid to get a larger slice of the drinks market. The company is focused on increasing beverage sales. This year, it has offered $1 coffee and $1 fountain beverages to bolster budget offers. The company says coffee is a $30bn opportunity and is growing annually. McDonald’s USA president Chris Kempczinski previously said: “Coffee remains a significant opportunity for us. There’s so much more we can do with this.” Coffee companies have generally outperformed the rest of the industry. Coffee companies’ like-for-like sales in the US averaged 2.2% in the fourth quarter, far higher than the average 0.7% decline for restaurants in the period. McDonald’s like-for-like sales declined 1.3% in the company’s fourth quarter ending 31 December 2016.

Goode & Wright relaunches under new ownership: Goode & Wright, an independent bistro and wine bar in London’s Portobello Road, has relaunched under new ownership. The revamped menu has been crafted by new owners Oren Goldfeld and Gabriel Muñuz Rodriguez. Goldfeld has developed his own style of cooking – classic with some modern techniques and a mixture of Middle Eastern, European and Asian flavours – by cooking in global kitchens for the past 17 years. He has been behind the food at London’s Restaurant 1701, and Tel Aviv eatery Rokach 73. Meanwhile, Rodriguez has been a chef in Malaga, the Basque country and the UK, having completed stints at restaurants Tokimeite and 50 Days By Albert Adria. The new menu makes a slight departure from traditional French fare to embrace a more global sensibility and small, tapas-style sharing plates. The name Goode & Wright was inspired by a former school uniform outfitter from 1928 who serviced the adjacent Portobello School. The new owners have kept the original signage’s colours and typography.

Nando’s signs deal to join £30m Stratford-upon-Avon development: Nando’s has signed a 15-year lease to be part of the £30m Bell Court scheme in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, which is due to open in June. The restaurant will occupy a 2,500 square foot unit overlooking the central courtyard at the development, with additional outdoor seating. The unit will be handed over to Nando’s for fit-out in the next couple of months, with the aim of opening in the summer. The deal was completed by Time Retail Partners and Nashbond on behalf of UK & European Investments. Nando’s will join a range of other restaurants, including Byron and Mitchells & Butlers brands Miller & Carter and All Bar One. The development will be anchored by an Everyman cinema. UK and European Investments managing director John Stacey said: “Securing the right mix of tenants is key to ensuring the long-term success of Bell Court. Popular brands such as Nando’s are a fantastic addition to the scheme, perfectly complementing the operator line-up we have already secured.” Bell Court comprises more than 70,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and leisure space.

Leoc UK to launch Onodera in London this week following £2.5m rebrand: Leoc UK will reopen Japanese restaurant Matsuri St James’s in London on Friday (17 March) following its £2.5m rebrand into the company’s Onodera concept. The venue in Bury Street closed in November after 23 years of trading as Matsuri St James’s to undergo a refurbishment to “keep up with the London scene”. The kitchen at 128-cover Onodera will be headed by Ryosuke Kishi, who has devised a menu that moves away from fusion to concentrate on traditional Japanese techniques. Onodera will feature a main dining room and three, six-cover private dining rooms, with consumers choosing from three styles of Japanese cuisine – sushi, teppanyaki and robata grill. Diners will also be able to enjoy a one-to-one experience at three private counters, with dishes prepared in front of them by their personal Onodera chef. General manager Masahito Hori said: “With new restaurants popping up in London every day, we recognised that to be successful in such a competitive industry we would need to up our game.” Leoc’s other Onodera restaurants are in Ginza, Shanghai, Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York and Paris.

M&B converting Crown Carveries site in Peacehaven to Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery brand: Mitchells & Butlers is transforming its Crown Carveries site in Peacehaven, East Sussex, to its Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery brand. The company has closed The Peacehaven in South Coast Road for refurbishment and it will reopen under the new look on Friday, 24 March. The Stonehouse offering ranges from breakfasts and traditional carvery to 100% fresh dough stone-baked pizzas. There is also a self-serve salad bar alongside pub favourites and an extensive children’s menu. In November, Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Phil Urban said the evolution of its Crown Carvery brand to Stonehouse was producing a 25% return on investment – the company expects to grow the brand to 80 sites in 2017 from the 36 sites it had at its year-end in September.

Douglas Jack – ‘JD Wetherspoon’s move to increase prices is positive’: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said he sees JD Wetherspoon’s move to increase prices as positive. Issuing a ‘Hold’ note on the shares with a target price of 925p, he said: “Given that expansion and cost pressures are predictable; like-for-like sales and the mix of price and volume are the key drivers of forecast changes. We estimate Wetherspoon’s total cost inflation should be circa £60m over the next 12 months (£20m additional levies and duty; £40m inflation-related), prior to adjusting for disposal and expansion activity, and cost-mitigation initiatives. These cost increases could be offset if the recent 2% to 3% price increase sticks and total like-for-like sales grow by 3% to 4%. We forecast like-for-like sales growing by 2.8% this year, implying 2.2% growth in the second half, with Ebit margins falling by 140 basis points in the second half. This equates to £87.4m profit before tax, which we view as being achievable after the recent price increase. To meet our forecast, the company needs to make £36.6m of profit before tax in the second half, down from £43.1m in the second half of 2016. The consensus forecast of £84.8m profit before tax assumes a 21% decline in profit before tax in the second half. It implies £48m of second half Ebit – £84.8m profit before tax, plus guided interest costs of £28m, less first half Ebit of £65.1m. In comparison, second-half Ebit in 2016 was £60.3m. To this, consensus sales are expected to add £18m in the second half. From this, guided cost inflation should remove circa £30m. The result equates to £48m second-half Ebit, prior to considering costs saved from disposing of tail-end outlets. Our view is that the recent price increase and the margin benefits from circa 40 tail-end disposals this year should support short-term forecasts. However, we do not recommend buying the shares. The rating is full, at 9.3 times EV/Ebitda versus a 7.4 times ten-year historic average, although the estate quality is higher (54% versus 44% freehold) and the cost of debt is lower (4% versus 7%). We do not envisage much earnings growth over the next two years due to further cost inflation, disposal benefits slowing, and the risk that further price increases could have a negative impact on volumes.”

Marco Pierre White opens Bardolino site in Swindon: Marco Pierre White’s franchised restaurant company Black and White Hospitality has opened a Bardolino Pizzeria Bellini & Espresso Bar in Swindon, Wiltshire. The new 80-cover restaurant is in Wood Street at the site of the former The Old Bank restaurant. Manni Madhani operates Bardolino under licence from Black and White Hospitality and also manages The Bank bars, which are located on the first and second floors of the building. White told the Swindon Advertiser: “Bardolino represents affordable, friendly and casual dining with authentic recognisable Italian dishes.” White is an active shareholder and investor in Black and White Hospitality. The company owns the franchise rights to five Marco Pierre White restaurant brands – Wheeler’s of St James’s, Steakhouse Bar & Grill, Mr White’s English Chophouse, Marco’s New York Italian, and Bardolino Pizzeria, Bellini & Espresso Bar. The company currently has 34 restaurants across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Bristol-based craft brewer Wiper & True teams up with city cafe bar to launch beer bar: Bristol-based craft brewer Wiper & True will team up with cafe bar The Old Bookshop to launch a beer bar in the city next month. The Old Butchers will open in North Street on Saturday, 1 April. For many years the site was home to Collard’s family butchers, whose name can still be seen on the tiles outside, with some of the original wall tiling inside being unearthed and restored for the new bar. Six beers from Wiper & True will always be on tap at The Old Butchers, alongside limited edition releases and experimental brews in development – testing potential recipes and new concepts for beer before it is brewed to full scale and for general release. There will also be a monthly bottle list curated by the brewers to showcase some of their favourite beers from across the world. Old Bookshop owner Ben Gatt told Bristol 24/7: “We’ve been very excited about this bar, not only because of the quality of Wiper & True’s beer but also in restoring the interiors of The Old Butchers and creating somewhere we hope the neighbourhood will be proud of.” 

Michelin-starred chef Mark Birchall launches first restaurant and hotel: Michelin-starred chef Mark Birchall has launched his first restaurant and hotel in Aughton, near Liverpool. Birchall, most recently executive chef with Simon Rogan at two Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, has developled Moor Hall, a grade II-listed 16th century house set in five acres. The building has been fully restored and redesigned in partnership with Andy and Tracey Bell. There are two reception rooms, a bar and a lounge on the ground floor, all featuring wood-panelled walls, carved fireplaces and leather sofas. The 50-cover restaurant has porcelain floors and glass walls giving panoramic views, with adjacent cheese and wine rooms. A private dining room for up to 12 features a handmade oak dining table and a large fireplace, while there are five bedrooms in the main house, with two additional bedrooms in the nearby gatehouse. Birchall’s menus showcase his own style of modern British cuisine, using produce grown on-site, reports the Southport Visiter.

Signature Living to transform historic Belfast courthouse into £25m luxury hotel as part of major plans for city: Aparthotel developer and operator Signature Living is set to transform the landmark Crumlin Road courthouse in Belfast into a £25m luxury hotel. It will be the first of up to five hotels the developer will bring to the city during the next three years. Signature Living chairman Lawrence Kenwright told the Belfast Telegraph: “Our focus will be on sympathetically restoring the building to its former glory in a way that is both true to its architectural heritage and aligns with the exciting style for which Signature Living is reputed. We see ourselves simply as custodians of these important buildings and the courthouse will still belong to the people of Belfast. For us, this is an investment in the Belfast community and, as well committing around £25m to the restoration project, we will invest in a series of community initiatives – including the launch of an apprenticeship academy – in the coming months.” The heritage building dates to 1850 but has fallen into disrepair. In 1983, the courthouse held the supergrass trials, the largest in British criminal history, with 22 IRA suspects jailed for a total of 4,000 years. It was once linked by tunnel with Crumlin Road Gaol, which has been turned into a tourist attraction. Earlier this month, Signature Living announced it planned to open a wedding venue and restaurant inside the Cunard Building, in which it hopes to win a first Michelin star for Liverpool, while it is also looking to open a George Best-themed hotel in Manchester.

Stonegate Pub Company to launch new Yates’s spring menu next week: Stonegate Pub Company will launch a new spring menu across its Yates’s estate next week. The menu will launch on Tuesday, 21 March with new additions to the “saintly” side including vegetable panang and spinach and broccoli quiche, both fewer than 650 calories. More calorific additions include a brunch burger and the challenge burger, a man versus food option that features a southern-fried chicken fillet and two double cheese and bacon burgers inside a sesame seed bun – with chips, beer-battered onion rings and smoky mayo. Yates’s “Legendary” section of the menu has also been expanded to include fish and chips, barbecue chicken melt, and beef and ale pie, while a Mexicana section has been added for the first time. New desserts include cookie crumb profiteroles and chocolate orange torte, while many of Yates’s cocktails will feature in a two-for-one offer throughout the week. Yates’s marketing manager Alex Botting said: “We’ve listened to our customers and refined our menu with their feedback in mind. We’ve updated some of our classic dishes and introduced new flavours. We hope our loyal customers will enjoy the additions and new ones are tempted to give us a try too!”

Champs licensee launches sports bar concept with Admiral Taverns: Paul McIver, who launched Champs bars in Liverpool and Southport with Punch, has opened a new sports bar concept with Admiral Taverns. McIver has launched Brooklyns Sports Bar & Grill in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, after a £300,000 investment, creating more than 30 jobs. Brooklyns is split over three floors with two bars. It features more than 20 televisions showing sports, booth seating with televisions, screens so customers can watch four different sporting events at any one time, an 18-foot by ten-foot, high-definition screen and a “Carling fast lane” that enables the bar to pour “bottom-up perfect pints in a matter of seconds” with a new dispense system. The bar also serves coffee, all-day breakfast and a varied menu of grill-style food, including chicken wings, ribs and pub classics. McIver said: “No expense has been spared at the new Brooklyns Sports Bar & Grill. We’ve created a venue that has something for everyone.” Alan Hurt, Admiral Taverns business development manager for Staffordshire, added: “Brooklyns Sports Bar & Grill is a real chameleon. In Paul, we have invested in a dedicated and experienced licensee who has a vision for what Newcastle needs in a pub – and we’ve helped to make that possible.”

Wagamama partners with Meantime Brewing Company to launch exclusive Asian-inspired craft pale ales: Wagamama has collaborated with Meantime Brewing Company to launch two Asian-inspired craft pale ales. The beers – Kikku and Kansho – are exclusive to Wagamama and have been brewed with Asian-inspired flavours to enhance and complement key ingredients used in the restaurant chain’s dishes. The pale ales have been created by Wagamama executive chef Steve Mangleshot and Meantime head brewer Ciaran Giblin. Kikku, meaning “kick” in Japanese, is a shichimi-infused beer and pairs with richer dishes such as short rib ramen and grilled duck donburi. Kansho, meaning “zesty”, has been brewed using fresh lime and ginger, which Wagamama recommends pairing with lighter, citrus-infused dishes. Mangleshot said: “We’re so excited about our partnership with Meantime. Our brands share the same values and passions and we believe those are evident in the finished products. Our aim was to push the boundaries in finding unique but accessible flavours. I think we’ve really hit the mark.” Last week, Wagamama reported turnover increased 15.7% to £64.2m in its third quarter to 29 January 2017, with 9% UK like-for-like sales growth. In February, Meantime Brewing Company, which was acquired in 2015 for £120m by SAB Miller and later sold on to Asahi Holdings, reported turnover increased to £26.5m in the 15 months to 31 March 2016, a rise of £9.8m.

Revolution Bars Group wins City Bar Dining accolade: Revolution Bars Group, the operator of 66 premium bars across the UK under the Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands, has scooped the best City Bar Dining accolade at this year’s annual Menu Innovation and Development Awards (MIDAS). A team of mystery diners and judges with experience of multi-unit disciplined menu operations chose the winners in each of the 28 categories, including City Bar Dining in which Revolution triumphed. The brand is driven by a premium proposition of experimental cocktails, coupled with a menu of contemporary British and Stateside classics including pizzas, burgers and wraps. Head of food innovation Mark Rush said: “It’s an honour to collect this award from MIDAS on behalf of the group and great to see our menus celebrated and recognised by our customers and peers. Our team is always looking at new trends and constantly evolve the menu, ensuring it stays current and attractive to our target market.”

Natural Healthy Foods to open full vegan cafe in Birmingham city centre: Natural Healthy Foods is set to open a full vegan cafe in Birmingham city centre this month, offering meat and sugar-free dishes. The 54-cover venue in Suffolk Street will offer gluten-free hot and raw food and organic vegan options, alongside a range of beverages such as kombucha, a fermented tea that boosts digestion, immunity and energy. Simon McCarroll opened Natural Healthy Foods store in Digbeth in 2015, selling more than 2,000 ingredients and cooking essentials for those wanting to embrace a plant-based diet. He told the Birmingham Mail: “Opening an all vegan cafe in the heart of the city seemed like the next step for us. We’ve built a strong customer base, we’re now looking for the next challenge, stocking our regular products along with having a variety of hot meals available, which will be served fresh from our in-store kitchen. We want to raise awareness of the health benefits natural food gives us and how tasty everything can be.”

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